Level of challenge and group capability

Your planning should include challenging elements at a level of difficulty where group members are unsure of how they will go, but are prepared to make an attempt. To climb a long spur, to cover a large distance, to negotiate some rocky ground, to carry a heavy pack and to camp in the snow are all examples that particular individuals may find challenging in a trip. For individuals facing such personal challenges, your support and encouragement and that of the group can be critical for success.

If the challenges of a trip are too great for the experience of the participants then they may fail to meet them and suffer serious physical or emotional harm. Thus you must be careful to assess the experience and capability of every member of the group, and pitch the challenges at a level that will stimulate rather than dismay.

The greatest challenge is often the unknown. Usually group members will derive considerable support and reassurance from a leader's knowledge and experience: 'We are half way there'; 'The water in the river will be up to your knees'. If you are involved in a trip beyond your own personal limits, the challenge for the group members is dramatically increased, often to the point of danger.

At the planning stage it is not only critical to choose the right level of challenge, but also to arrange the challenging elements in the best possible way. Thought should be given to the sequence and timing of these planned challenges. For example, a difficulty early in the trip can do wonders to speed up the process of group development, creating a sense of common purpose.

The right level of challenge depends on the experience and motivation of the group. They will not always want to be challenged - sometimes they may simply want to photograph wildflowers, look at the views or enjoy a relaxing stroll through the bush. Every group member's motivation will vary from time to time, as well as undergoing gradual long-term changes.